Sleep in the spare room if your partner snores, Oxford professor says

A man snoring next to his partner - PeopleImages/iStockphoto
A man snoring next to his partner - PeopleImages/iStockphoto

Moving into separate bedrooms will improve your marriage rather than end it, a leading sleep scientist has said.

Prof Russell Foster, director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University, urged long-suffering partners to throw away the ear plugs.

Too many people are anxious that sleeping in separate rooms is a sign that the love has gone out of their relationship, he suggested.

Delivering a lecture at the Hay Festival on how to have a good night’s sleep, Professor Foster said: “As for ear plugs if you have a partner that snores: a lot of people sidle up to me, usually on their own, and say, ‘What can I do? Ear plugs don’t work.’

“The serious point is that you need to make sure your partner does not have obstructive sleep apnoea, which of course can be quite dangerous.

“If it’s just snoring, what do you do? Well, you sleep in another place,” he said.

“So many people say, ‘I’ve slept with my partner for 50 years, it’s the end of our relationship.’ No, it isn’t. It’s the beginning of a new relationship where both of you ideally would be happier, more responsive to each, less impulsive and less irritable.

“So I don’t think you should be afraid to sleep in an alternative space if you have one.”

Sleep apps

Among Prof Foster’s other tips, he recommended deleting any sleep apps from your smartphone or tablet.

“Don’t take sleep apps seriously. They are useless,” he said. “They’re ok to tell you roughly when you went to sleep, if you woke up in the night and when you finally got up.

“But when they start saying, ‘You had a good night’s sleep, you got lots of REM sleep?’ It’s just nonsense.

“And they can cause huge anxiety. One chap came up to me and said, ‘My sleep app tells me I’m not getting slow wave sleep, I’m so anxious about it that I’ve set my alarm clock for 3am to check how much slow wave sleep I’m getting.’ I kid you not. That’s the level of anxiety going on.”

Prof Foster, author of Life Time: The New Science of the Body Clock, said he wrote the book because he had “an increasing level of irritation with the sergeant majors of sleep: ‘You have to get eight hours sleep or you’re going to die’, ‘You can’t look at at a Kindle before you go to bed.’ There is an awful lot of nonsense out there.

“We need to understand that we are all different.”

Circadian rhythms

Prof Foster said that attuning to our natural circadian rhythms can drastically improve our health. People who wake during the night can pick up a book, but only if they keep the lights very low, he recommended.

One of the most important steps is to get outside in natural light first thing in the morning, he added. Studies have shown that dog owners have better quality sleep. “Is that because they have a companion animal? No, it’s because they have to take the dog for a walk every morning.”

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